Dear Ms. Qualtrough:
Thank you for agreeing to serve Canadians as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
On Election Day, Canadians chose to continue moving forward. From coast to coast to coast, people chose to invest in their families and communities, create good middle class jobs and fight climate change while keeping our economy strong and growing. Canadians sent the message that they want us to work together to make progress on the issues that matter most, from making their lives more affordable and strengthening the healthcare system, to protecting the environment, keeping our communities safe and moving forward on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. People expect Parliamentarians to work together to deliver these results, and that’s exactly what this team will do.
It is more important than ever for Canadians to unite and build a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient country. The Government of Canada is the central institution to promote that unity of purpose and, as a Minister in that Government, you have a personal duty and responsibility to fulfill that objective.
That starts with a commitment to govern in a positive, open and collaborative way. Our platform, Forward: A Real Plan for the Middle Class, is the starting point for our Government. I expect us to work with Parliament to deliver on our commitments. Other issues and ideas will arise or will come from Canadians, Parliament, stakeholders and the public service. It is my expectation that you will engage constructively and thoughtfully and add priorities to the Government’s agenda when appropriate. Where legislation is required, you will need to work with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Cabinet Committee on Operations to prioritize within the minority Parliament.
We will continue to deliver real results and effective government to Canadians. This includes: tracking and publicly reporting on the progress of our commitments; assessing the effectiveness of our work; aligning our resources with priorities; and adapting to events as they unfold, in order to get the results Canadians rightly demand of us.
Many of our most important commitments require partnership with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and Indigenous partners, communities and governments. Even where disagreements may occur, we will remember that our mandate comes from citizens who are served by all orders of government and it is in everyone’s interest that we work together to find common ground. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is the Government-wide lead on all relations with the provinces and territories.
There remains no more important relationship to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. We made significant progress in our last mandate on supporting self-determination, improving service delivery and advancing reconciliation. I am directing every single Minister to determine what they can do in their specific portfolio to accelerate and build on the progress we have made with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.
I also expect us to continue to raise the bar on openness, effectiveness and transparency in government. This means a government that is open by default. It means better digital capacity and services for Canadians. It means a strong and resilient public service. It also means humility and continuing to acknowledge mistakes when we make them. Canadians do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be diligent, honest, open and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.
As Minister, you are accountable for your style of leadership and your ability to work constructively in Parliament. I expect that you will collaborate closely with your Cabinet and Caucus colleagues. You will also meaningfully engage with the Government Caucus and Opposition Members of Parliament, the increasingly non-partisan Senate, and Parliamentary Committees.
It is also your responsibility to substantively engage with Canadians, civil society and stakeholders, including businesses of all sizes, organized labour, the broader public sector and the not-for-profit and charitable sectors. You must be proactive in ensuring that a broad array of voices provides you with advice, in both official languages, from every region of the country.
We are committed to evidence-based decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on all Canadians and fully defends the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You will apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in the decisions that you make.
Canada’s media and your engagement with them in a professional and timely manner are essential. The Parliamentary Press Gallery, indeed all journalists in Canada and abroad, ask necessary questions and contribute in an important way to the democratic process.
You will do your part to continue our Government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure that people of all gender identities, Indigenous Peoples, racialized people, persons with disabilities and minority groups are reflected in positions of leadership.
As Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, you will help Canadians get the skills they need for good quality jobs, and will develop measures that maximize labour force participation. You will have carriage of the Employment Insurance program.You will lead the Disability Inclusion file, implementing our Disability Equality Statement.
I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities. In particular, you will:
- Fulfill our commitments to strengthen Employment Insurance, including the development of new Special Benefits models:
- Reform the delivery of Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits to be tax-free at source. This will include a comparable benefit for the portion of federal taxes that residents of Quebec pay as part of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan;
- Introduce a 15 week leave for adoptive parents, including LGBTQ2 families;
- Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to develop a Guaranteed Paid Family Leave program. Together, you will improve and integrate the existing Employment Insurance-based system of maternity and parental benefits, as well as the Canada Child Benefit, with a guaranteed income during the first year of a child’s life; and work with Quebec on effective integration with its own parental benefits system;
- Create a new Career Insurance Benefit for workers who have worked for the same employer for five or more years and have lost their job as their employer ceases operation. This new Benefit will begin as Employment Insurance ends and will not be clawed back if other income is earned;
- Improve the current pilot project for seasonal workers with a permanent program that provides consistent and reliable benefits;
- Extend Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks;
- With the support of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, work with Statistics Canada to strengthen local labour market data so that Employment Insurance can better reflect local labour market realities; and
- With the support of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, create a new Employment Insurance Disaster Assistance Benefit. This new Benefit will be developed in consultation with experts, workers and employers. It will replace lost income when families need to temporarily stop working to protect their homes or need to relocate for safety reasons.
- Further strengthen the Canada Student Loans and Grants system:
- Increase Canada Student Grants by up to $1,200 per year for post-secondary education students;
- Extend the interest-free grace period after graduation before student loans need to be repaid from six months to two years;
- Increase the Repayment Assistance Plan income threshold from $25,000 to $35,000, pausing repayment obligations if income falls below this level and maintaining flexibility for early repayment;
- Allow new parents to pause their student loan repayments, interest-free, until their youngest child reaches age 5. In addition, new parents who have graduated but have not paid off their student loans may also pause their repayment until their child turns 5 years old;
- Provide compensation to provinces and territories that do not participate in the Canada Student Loans Program; and
- Raise public awareness of the financial supports that students, workers and families have access to for education and training.
- With the support of the Minister of Finance, continue the implementation of the new Canada Training Benefit, for launch in 2020.
- Continue to support the work of the national campaign to promote the skilled trades as first choice careers for young people.
- Invest in skills training to ensure that there are enough qualified workers to support energy audits, retrofits and net zero home construction.
- Create the Canadian Apprenticeship Service in partnership with provinces, territories, employers and unions. This will involve establishing new initiatives so that Red Seal apprentices have sufficient work experience opportunities to finish their training on time and find well paying jobs, including providing up to $10,000 per apprentice over four years for every new position created.
- With the support of the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, enhance the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy and the Canada Summer Jobs program.
- Support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to make progress on eliminating interprovincial trade barriers by harmonizing rules and regulatory requirements to better facilitate the mobility of labour across Canada.
- Support the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Health to respond to the recent Court ruling regarding the medical assistance in dying framework.
- Continue your efforts in leading the Government’s work to promote disability inclusion:
- Ensure the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, putting relevant policies and practices of the new Act into place and supporting the operationalization of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, in consultation with the disability community;
- Conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in government programs and services, and challenges the biases built into government processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act;
- Support the Minister of Health toward the creation of a national autism strategy;
- Double the Child Disability Benefit and work with families and experts to ensure the Benefit is effective in providing help as most needed;
- Undertake initiatives to improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities and specifically target barriers to full participation in the labour force, including addressing discrimination and stigma, raising public awareness and working with employers and businesses in a coordinated way; and
- Create a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close the gaps in access to good paying jobs and education.
These priorities draw heavily from our election platform commitments. As mentioned, you are encouraged to seek opportunities to work across Parliament in the fulfillment of these commitments and to identify additional priorities.
I expect you to work closely with your Deputy Minister and their senior officials to ensure that the ongoing work of your department is undertaken in a professional manner and that decisions are made in the public interest.Your Deputy Minister will brief you on the many daily decisions necessary to ensure the achievement of your priorities, the effective running of the government and better services for Canadians. It is my expectation that you will apply our values and principles to these decisions so that they are dealt with in a timely and responsible manner and in a way that is consistent with the overall direction of our Government.
Our ability, as a government, to implement our priorities depends on consideration of the professional, non-partisan advice of public servants. Each and every time a government employee comes to work, they do so in service to Canada, with a goal of improving our country and the lives of all Canadians. I expect you to establish a collaborative working relationship with your Deputy Minister, whose role, and the role of public servants under their direction, is to support you in the performance of your responsibilities.
We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. I expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do. I want Canadians to look on their own government with pride and trust.
As Minister, you must ensure that you are aware of and fully compliant with the Conflict of Interest Act and Treasury Board policies and guidelines. You will be provided with a copy of Open and Accountable Government to assist you as you undertake your responsibilities. I ask that you carefully read it, including elements that have been added to strengthen it, and ensure that your staff does so as well. I expect that in staffing your offices you will hire people who reflect the diversity of Canada, and that you will uphold principles of gender equality, disability equality, pay equity and inclusion.
Give particular attention to the Ethical Guidelines set out in Annex A of that document, which apply to you and your staff. As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
I will note that you are responsible for ensuring that your Minister’s Office meets the highest standards of professionalism and that it is a safe, respectful, rewarding and welcoming place for your staff to work.
I know I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities entrusted in you. It is incumbent on you to turn to me and the Deputy Prime Minister early and often to support you in your role as Minister.
Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada